The commencement speakers and honorary doctorate recipients for the class of 2017 have been selected, but some complications have caused the undergraduate keynote speaker to pull out at the last minute, leaving administration scrambling for a backup plan.
Montclair State University’s initial selection for the undergraduate commencement was Victor Cruz, a Paterson-born (then) Giants wide receiver. He is the founder of the Victor Cruz Foundation, an organization dedicated to creating educational opportunities for young people. However, after the Giants released Cruz back in February, his schedule no longer allowed him to keep his commitment to speak at Montclair State’s undergraduate commencement on May 25.
“We are having ongoing discussions about the commencement program,” said a spokesperson for the university, weighing in on the university’s attempt to regroup after this disruption of plans. “Our goal is to have the program be a memorable experience for our graduates and their families. We expect to announce our finalized plans shortly.”
This announcement comes on the heels of major changes to the graduation ceremonies. Until the 2016-17 academic year, the university hosted separate convocations for each school, as well as large commencement ceremony for all the graduates. The elimination of convocations incited negative responses from some students, especially when many graduates walked out of January’s commencement after receiving their diplomas to avoid watching the lengthy ceremony of 2,277 graduates.
For the graduate school commencement on May 22, the university selected Carlos Rodriguez, president and CEO of Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP). Rodriguez immigrated to the United States with his parents as a child, and was a first-generation college student, receiving his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Business Administration from Harvard University.
He will deliver the keynote address at the graduate school commencement and receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from the university.
“[Rodriguez’s] story is a testament to what students can achieve by pursuing a higher education, and more than that, it is emblematic of the quality of contributions made by generations of immigrants to this country,” said President Susan Cole in a press release.
The university initially chose Cruz for similar reasons. In addition to founding a charity, Cruz has remained active in his hometown of Paterson throughout his NFL career, specifically though his involvement in the Boys and Girls Club.
The commencement speaker selection process begins through nominations from a committee comprised of university representatives, including one member of the Student Government Association. The nominations are reviewed by President Susan Cole, who gives her recommended choice to the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees then votes on the selection. Commencement speakers are not paid, but they receive an honorary degree from the university.
The graduate school commencement is at 7 p.m. on May 22 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ. The undergraduate commencement is on Thursday, May 25 at 9 a.m. at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.